Hardwick Hall – epic mech-breaker edition

A day to remember at Hardwick Hall.  Pouring rain overnight and through the morning turned a fast but bumpy course into a tough and technical challenge.  Early in the day, during practice, rider after rider were trying to find a way to ride ‘The Camber’ when it was wet and none could do it, but after the rain stopped just enough grip returned for only the brave and skilled to ride or scoot it… and even some of those slipped with bike-breaking consequences.

There were former and current National and World Champions racing, but the tightest race for the win came in the U16 Boys in the worst conditions of the day. From the whistle Tim Elsmore-Martin (Fossa Racing), Finn Mansfield (MI Racing Academy) and Alec Gregory (Leicestershire Road Club) broke away from the pack and continued to do battle for a number of laps, with Tim making a break mid race only to be pulled back by the other two. Eventually the pace told for Alec, in his first race at this level. As the other two pushed on Finn finally proved to be the strongest and took a deserved victory.

Finn Mansfield winning the U16 just lapping sister Lotta winner the U14g
Finn Mansfield winning the U16 just lapping sister Lotta winner of the U14g

In the same race Derby Mercury took 1st and 2nd in the U14 Boys with Ben Chilton (who appears to have grown at least 12 inches this summer) and Joseph Kininmonth. Christopher Hilbert (Sherwood Pines Cycles Felt) finished 50 seconds further back in 3rd.

The U16 Girls race was dominated by Elena Smith (Fossa Racing). Amelie Wayte (Zepnat RT) and Sarah Briggs (Matlock CC) resumed their traditional roles of battling against each other, with Sarah coming out on top on this occasion. The U14 Girls race saw a powerful ride from Lotta Mansfield (MI Racing Academy) which gave her a gap of almost 8 minutes from second place Annabel Parker (Matlock CC) with Holly Bailey (Heanor Clarion) in 3rd.

Most seasons the Men’s Vets race has the largest field and this season looks to be no exception. After the usual jostling for position at the start the race settled down into an energy sapping bumpy course with the ever challenging off-camber traverse through the woods. Danny Alexander had a clear lead but a series of mechanicals meant a retirement when he simply ran out of bikes!  Even after the race the mud still claimed victims – the first over the line was DQ due to a pit rule infringement due to a clean bike not being ready (current British Champion Liam Killeen famously fell foul of the same rule in a National last season).  The final victor was Matt Crouch (Fossa Racing, also first V45) followed by James Furniss (Zepnat RT) and Chi Tang (Zepnat RT).  The Vet 50 race saw Kirby Bennett (Team Jewson MI Racing, also first V55) work his way through the Vet 40 field all the way up to 6th overall before winning his category. Nigel Gregory (Leicestershire Road Club) finished 2nd and Chris Green (Matlock CC) came 3rd.  V60s and V70s were won by Carl McDonagh (Zepnat) and John Dowell (Heanor).

Hardwick - Hard luck: Last lap mech failure (Image Mazzrock on Twitter)
Hardwick – Hard luck: Last lap mech failure (Image Mazzrock on Twitter)

The final race of the day had 8 different categories.  It was dominated by the current Team GB rider David Fletcher (Sherwood Pines Cycles Felt) who finished 1st in the Male Seniors race. Over the line George Thompson (Giant Store Rutland/Wattbike) came in 2nd (1st U23), and Lee Shunburne (Fossa Racing) finishing 3rd in conditions he loves and usually has to wait until round 5 or 6 to get.  3rd in the seniors classification was Christian Aucote (Lloyds Cycles), despite racing on a MTB in his trademark baggy shorts.  Josh Waters (Mercia – Lloyds Cycles) and Kieren Brown filled the podium spots in the U23s.  The male Junior race was won by Elliot Bannister (Nottingham Clarion) showing impressive improvement since finishing U16s last year.  He was followed by Matt Ellis (SRAM) and Elliot’s team mate, Tom Dussek.

In the women’s race Diane Lee (Cannondale Girls) showed her class with a commanding victory 2 minutes ahead of v40 national champion Maddi Smith from the organising team, although looking fantastic in her national champs stripes.  Third was Tracy Fletcher showing that V50s can still have the speed and Xan Crees (Empella) 4th, this being her first season as a Junior who rode a well measured race to eventually overhaul the early age category leader Maddie Gammons (RP Vision Racing Team, 2nd J).  Tiffany Fletcher (Empella) was first U23 female who out sprinted Caroline Mansfield (MI Racing Academy, 2nd V40) on the line.  Senior 2nd and 3rd women were Joanne Clay (Torq) and Cheryl Vaughan (Matlock). The top 3s in the women’s age categories were filled by Joni Wildman (3rd J, Nottm Clarion) making a welcome return to NDCXL racing, and team-mate Clem Bird, 2nd in the U23.  Helen Dussek, another Nottingham Clarionette, was 3rd v40; Maz Heffron (Zepnat) and Ruth Sutherland (B&DCC) were 2nd and 3rd in the V50s.

Seniors start line - happy riders and clean bikes. That didn't last long. (Picture: Matt Payne, Twitter)
Seniors start line – happy riders and clean bikes. That didn’t last long. (Picture: Matt Payne, Twitter)

U12s and U9s


With grey skies overhead and persistent heavy showers the 2016-17 NDCXL league kicked off at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.

The under 9’s got proceedings underway with a very healthy field of 48 riders on a very slippy course which deteriorated quickly. Jacob Steed (Bolsover CC) was the quickest off the line but came to grief on the first corner entering the woods which allowed his team mate George Cooper (Bolsover CC) to take the lead which he rode strongly to protect until the finish.

Jacob Steed hadn’t given up and after losing several places in the earlier crash fought back to finish a fine 2nd with another Bolster CC rider Dillon Preece in 3rd.

In the under 9 girls the top three were Gemma Newall (Cycle derby CC) 20th, Lottie Lissaman (Newark Castle CC) 21st and Eleanor Gordon (Matlock CC) 22nd who rode together for most of the race and were only 10 seconds apart at the finish


The rain continued to come down during the opening lap of the U12’s which sported a fine field of 57 riders. With the bunch tightly packed coming out of the woods it was Ben Marsh (Heanor Clarion) who took the initiative and gapped the rest of the field. Jake Kennedy (VC Lincoln) fought hard to keep Ben in his sights and seemed to be closing with half a lap to go, Ben though had other ideas increasing the pace and riding the mud expertly to take the win with Jake 18 seconds back in 2nd.There was a great battle for 3rd some way back from the leaders with Otto Chilton (Derby Mercury) coming out on top.

In the U12 girls Libby Bell (Leicester Forest CC) rode a faultless race to finish 11th overall and 1st girl with Harriet Limb (Matlock CC) 2nd girl and14th overall just pipping Florence Lissaman (Newark Castle CC) who finished less than a second back in 3rd and 15th overall

Most of the riders we interviewed reported multiple crashes but were happy to be back racing in the mud.


Reports: Andrew, Neil and Dominic